Exactly one year ago I resigned from my role at Google.
As much as I loved my time there, my decision came down to this: I was way too deep into my comfort zone.
Life was just too easy — free breakfast and lunch served every single day, seven restaurants to choose from, an entire gym three floors underneath me, a swimming pool, a dentist, a laundry service, a barista brewing your coffee, two kitchens on every single floor.
My role was no longer challenging me either and I wasn’t learning anything new in my day-to-day tasks — I completely lost the thrill.
I figured I needed a change in scenery and some time off to shake things up a bit.
So I did what I thought was right.
I said I was done.
And just like that, I handed in my resignation, packed my bags and booked a flight out of Dublin.
I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do after Google, but I knew this: I was approaching my third decade on earth and my heart was itching to finally try and start something of my own.
Something meaningful, impactful.
I wanted to build things and test out my ideas. To learn! And even fail (if I absolutely must) in the process of doing so.
I just wanted to start, and stop talking about starting one day.
And I knew that if there’s any right time to experiment in life, it’s now, in the final years of my twenties.
So after some travelling throughout Central America, and spending lots of time roaming in the beauty of nature and reading up on global issues such as climate change and plastic pollution, I had a moment that made me realize: this is it.
This is what I want to do next in my life.
I’m going to build a brand to raise awareness about plastic pollution and help people replace plastic items in their lives.
And just like that, I had a business idea. There was a problem, and I wanted to offer a solution. So I flew back home and got to work.
Lovers of The Sea has been in business for 8 months now. I’ve been working on it for a total of 11 months.
I have learnt so much in the process of building it and growing it and I want to shed some honest light on what it really means to be a solo entrepreneur in your late twenties building a completely bootstrapped business.
Here are the five realities of the entrepreneurial journey:
1. Entrepreneurship is not Glamorous.
No it is not. It is a lonely gruelling process of just keep going.
We’ve been wired by the media to only see the result.
You only hear about the entrepreneur who went from zero-to-seven-figures in her first year of business or the two-man startup team that just sold their business for $300,000,000.
But when you dig deep into these stories, you realize the sheer number of years of failures, pivot points and “figuring it out” 99.9% of startups must go through before “making it”. You uncover all the personal sacrifices, late nights, long weekends, self-doubts, criticism, financial insecurities and troubles an entrepreneur endures throughout the process of building their business.
We are bombarded with these glamorous headlines that we’ve become fine-tuned to only see — and think of — the result.
But greatness is not in the result. Greatness is in the process.
Reality #1: There will be so many tough days, so many zero-sale days, so many costs incurred without consistent revenue, so many glitches to fix, and much more uncertainty to maneuver. You will be crushed with self-doubt countless times, but you will carry on, and you will keep pushing because you’ll begin to understand that the greatness is in the process, not the result.
2. Entrepreneurship will give you a true taste of what it means to sacrifice.
Building on my previous point, get ready to say goodbye to your old life’s luxuries. You will not have the time (or money) to go out on dinner dates. Or to the movies. Or to festivals. Or to hangout with friends for drinks after work.
Your mind will be consumed with so many problems, dilemmas , worries and questions: How should we price this product? Why is our conversation rate so low? How do we grow our instagram audience? How can we lower our shipping costs? How can we reach more people? What if we try this new approach to our email marketing campaign…
This is all you’re going to think about, religiously for the first few months post launch. There’s so much to learn and to figure out, that you will feel guilty socializing and spending money (which you don’t really have — especially if you don’t have a day job).
For every dollar you spend on social activities, there’s one less dollar to spend on the business. For every hour you spend watching Netflix, that’s one less hour of reading on content marketing strategy.
Realty #2: The sacrifice is necessary. It’s part of the equation.
It was hard for me to accept this sudden change in lifestyle.
At first, I thought it would only be temporary, and that soon things will flourish.
But with time I’ve come to realize that this is the new reality of how things will be because it will take years of commitment to build a thriving sustainable business. And only when I came to accept this perspective that my thinking began to shift. I’ve now learnt to see this sacrifice as an investment in myself, in my growth, in my journey to who I wish to become and where I want to take my life.
Entrepreneurship will teach you that all great things are built by people with three qualities: an unparalleled self-belief, a willpower of commitment, and an ability to really cut-back and sacrifice for a greater ambition.
3. (Solo)Entrepreneurship is lonely.
You are alone in this, and you are in it alone. This is especially true if you’re going at it solo.
You will feel so lonely, because your non-entrepreneur friends are still in their corporate jobs, still with that paycheque of security, traveling, partying, living life. And you can’t join them. They will invite you to chime in the fun and they won’t understand why you keep declining — which you will obviously do for three reasons: (1) you can’t afford it (2) you don’t have the time and (3) you have better things to do and focus on — you eat, sleep, work, repeat trying to build this thing you care so much about.
You’re lonely because you’re marching through the struggles alone.
In the grand scheme of things though, you’re sacrificing so much in your life now, with the dream of succeeding tomorrow. So, in the meantime, you’ll grow and learn to live in companionship with yourself.
Reality #3: You will become your new best friend. Which isn’t so bad, considering how much more you’ll get to learn about yourself in the process.
4. Entrepreneurship isn’t about the “starting”, it’s about the “just keep going”.
Starting is easy.
We live in the easiest era in human history to start a business.
It took me 15 minutes to get started: I registered my company, bought a domain online and signed-up for an e-commerce online store.
Boom. I just got started.
All the tools to get started are online.
Reality #4: Entrepreneurship isn’t about starting, it’s about the just keep going. Just keep pushing. Keep figuring out new ways of doing things and solving the never ending problems that will arise.
Greatness is in the process, not the result. This should be your mantra — a daily reminder that things will take time, so keep showing up today and stop obsessing about the future.
5. Entrepreneurship is an emotional rollercoaster riding straight into the unknown.
There will be more tough times than good times.
Get ready for this.
That first sale will be so joyous. Five-star customer reviews will make you feel as happy as a kid licking an ice-cream on a hot summer day.
Realty #5: For every great day there’s a series of incredibly difficult days you’ve got to deal with.
And more than that, you’re literally swimming into the horizon. There is a massive opportunity ahead of you, but you don’t know if you will reach it. All you can do is believe in yourself and keep trying.
So my advice to deal with these emotions of stress and anxiety would be to focus on learning. Ask yourself everyday: am I still learning?
You will immediately conclude that you are, because you will look back to who you were when you first started this journey and you’ll realize this: I’ve come a long way.
If you’re considering entrepreneurship as your next path in life, I’m not here to discourage you. I’m here to encourage you to take that leap of faith.
But I want you to understand what you’re about to get yourself into — especially if you’re thinking of quitting your job before getting started AND going solo on it.
Entrepreneurship is not easy. So if you’re serious about it, get ready to commit emotionally, psychologically and financially to whatever project you want to build.
Understand that it will take you twice as long to build, and it will cost twice as much as you had forecasted.
It’s a long journey.
But the journey is so rewarding.
I‘ve learnt so much about business and myself so far, and I know that there’s so much more to learn. It’s an adventure with a bunch of roller coasters of emotion. There are highs and there are lows, and in between them, you will grow.
Do I regret leaving Google? No.
Because I feel so alive. Because I’ve learn so much in the process of doing it on my own.
I’ve tasted the thrill, I live it everyday. And that’s what I was missing a year ago.
Thanks for reading! :)